Political turmoil in Himachal Pradesh: Tough road ahead for Sukhu - Hindustan Times
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Political turmoil in Himachal Pradesh: Tough road ahead for Sukhu

By, Shimla
Mar 01, 2024 12:34 PM IST

Defeat of the Congress candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat has heightened the simmering political crisis in Himachal Pradesh Congress

Concerted efforts of the Congress high command observers may have been able to pacify the resentment against chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu for a while but the recent rumbling in the grand old party has made clear that the road ahead is also tough.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and Congress state president Pratibha Singh address the press conference after attending the Himachal Pradesh Congress meeting, in Shimla on Thursday. (ANI)
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and Congress state president Pratibha Singh address the press conference after attending the Himachal Pradesh Congress meeting, in Shimla on Thursday. (ANI)

Congress suffered a setback after Congress’ Abhishekh Manu Singhvi lost the elections in a tiebreaker against BJP’s Harsh Mahajan. Congress’s six legislators who had been vocal against the functioning of chief minister Sukhu, even before the Rajya Sabha candidate was announced cross-voted against its party. Sukhu, who has a strong organisational background, failed to gauge or rather ignored the brewing discontent against him.

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Rather than relying on his organisational strength, he remained more dependent on his coterie of people who lacked experience in electoral politics. The loss in Rajya Sabha poll due to cross-voting has severely dented Sukhu’s popularity as the party prepares for the Lok Sabha elections. The public accessibility of the chief minister has remained negligent.

Defeat of the Congress candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha seat has heightened the simmering political crisis in Himachal Pradesh Congress. A year-old Congress government led by Sukhu is facing challenges on multiple fronts. Anger and annoyance of the party MLA’s alongside the BJP’s desperation to destabilise the Sukhu government have exposed the internal factional feud at the crucial juncture of Lok Sabha elections. Though the storm has been controlled temporarily with the passing of the Finance Bill, the suspension of six rebel Congress MLA’ may not go down well with the party rank and file.

Congress leadership acted too late to control the damage. Instead of infighting and leg-pulling, the leadership needs to focus on fighting the political battle with a united face against a much stronger and resourceful political opponent in the state, says political analyst Ramesh K Chauhan, who heads the political science department at a university.

The Congress dislodged the BJP from power in Himachal Pradesh in 2022 by bagging just 37,974 votes more than the saffron party. Congress bagged 40 seats with a vote share of 43.9%(18,52,504 votes), while the BJP, with a vote share of 43% (18,14,530 votes), managed to win 25 seats, and the difference in vote share between the two was just 0.9% points, which is lowest since 1951.

The BJP primarily lost elections due to Congress grantees and BJP faced rebellion in 22 seats Congress regained power in the 2022 assembly elections defeating the BJP. Congresses announced different guarantees to lure the people, but so far in the last 14 months, it has not been able to fulfill even a single guarantee which has now given a tool to the opposition BJP to hit out at the Congress.

Congress promised to resume the old pension scheme, and employment opportunities for five lakh youth. Himachal’s women were promised a compensation of 1,500 per month, 300 units of free electricity in Himachal Pradesh, and a start-up fund of 680 crore for the youth and other promises.

What is more worrying for the party is that the BJP candidates in the last Lok Sabha elections won with massive leads. Information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur defeated his rival Ram Lal Thakur with a margin of 3,99,572 votes and Lok Sabha member Suersh Kashyap defeated Dhaniram Shandil with 3,27, 515 votes.

Pradesh Congress committee chief Pratibha Singh had a close contest with Kargil war hero Brigadier (retired) Kushal Thakur. Pratibha won the elections by 34,000 votes from Mandi, also known as the battlefield of royal due to its electoral history.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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